Get the Look for a Fraction of the Price The biggest difference between precious gems and semi-precious stones is centuries of good marketing. Plenty of genuine gemstones are just as colorful, durable and brilliant as their precious cousins, but they don’t cost nearly as much. Because they aren’t as scarce or as expensive as diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, real semi-precious stones are a good choice for everyday jewelry.
All clear gems look a little bit like diamonds, but clear topaz is one of the best natural alternatives to white diamonds. Like a diamond, a topaz is harder than most stones; it won’t scratch or wear smooth. Topaz also has a high refractive index — that’s a measure of how light bounces and scatters through the faceted stone — so it sparkles like diamonds, not like glass or rhinestones.
White diamonds are expensive, but the price of colorful diamonds is in the stratosphere. Jewelers call diamonds in colors other than white fancy diamonds, but if you call them out of your reach, go for pink tourmaline instead. Pink tourmaline naturally occurs in shades from sweet cotton-candy pink to a vivid hot pink that’s brighter than any diamond. Natural tourmaline has a high refractive index too, so it sparkles and shimmers like a diamond.
If you love rubies, but not the price they usually command, go with garnets. The deep red stone isn’t just a pretty substitute for rubies, it’s a gorgeous gem in its own right. Real rubies vary from light red to pinkish, but garnets range from deep maroon to rich crimson. Because they’re easy to work, garnets were popular in Bronze Age jewelry; they look just as beautiful today as they did to the Vikings. They’re January’s birthstone, but anyone who loves gorgeous jewel tones can wear garnets.
The brilliant green of emeralds has no exact parallel among other natural gemstones, but if green is your color, you have other shades to enjoy. Peridot, August’s birthstone, has a gorgeous sparkle and a bright chartreuse green-apple hue that’s just as uniquely beautiful in its own way as an emerald’s deeper green. Despite costing a good bit less, a peridot is also much tougher than an emerald, so peridot jewelry is a good choice if you’re active and tough on your jewelry.
The beauty of semi-precious gemstone jewelry is that you’re still wearing the real thing when you wear it — you’re just wearing a different thing than what people might think. If anyone asks you if your white topaz is real, say yes and mean it; it’s a gemstone too.